Country information for Belgium (French community) - Legislation and policy
The ‘Code of Basic and Secondary Education’ contains all legislation on compulsory education, including the new measures relating to inclusive education, reasonable accommodation, the common core and school management. A three-year evaluation was recorded in the ‘Pact for an education of excellence’.
The Government of the Wallonia – Brussels Federation is developing a new decree concerning the establishment of ‘territorial poles’ for pupils with specific educational needs in mainstream education. The aim is to replace the current system of integration (involving 11,000 pupils) with resource centres that will serve all mainstream schools. Implementation is scheduled for September 2021. In the meantime, the Decree of 3 March 2004, which replaced the Law on specialised teaching of 6 July 1970, regulates the practical organisation of special education. Chapter X is devoted to integration.
The aims of the education system
The Wallonia – Brussels Federation simultaneously and non-hierarchically aims to:
- promote each pupil’s self-confidence and personal development;
- give all pupils appropriate knowledge and help, enabling them to acquire competences that will allow them to continue learning and to take an active part in the economic, social and cultural life surrounding them;
- prepare all pupils to be responsible citizens, able to contribute to the development of a democratic, interdependent, pluralist and open international society;
- ensure that all pupils receive the same chance of social emancipation.
In addition, pre-primary education aims to:
- increase pupils’ awareness of their own potential and assist them to express themselves through creative activities;
- increase socialisation;
- increase cognitive, social, emotional and psycho-motor functional knowledge;
- detect difficulties or disabilities and ensure the necessary assistance.
In addition to the general aims, primary education aims to:
- prioritise reading, the use of senses (as opposed to technology), writing and communication;
- teach the basic tools of mathematics, allowing problem-solving;
- encourage pupils to achieve the general aims of compulsory education in all educational activities.
The structure of primary education
In mainstream schools, the structure of pre-primary education and the first eight years of compulsory education is a pedagogical continuum structured in three steps. Each step covers a period of four years, and includes one or two cycles of two or three years:
- Step 1:
- First cycle: 2½–4 years old (first and second pre-primary)
- Second cycle: 5–7 years old (third pre-primary, first and second primary)
- Step 2:
- First cycle: 8–9 years old (third and fourth primary)
- Second cycle: 10–11 years old (fifth and sixth primary)
- Step 3: the first part of secondary school is one cycle.
This system aims to ensure all pupils have the basic competences necessary for their social integration and to follow their studies.
Education for 2½- to 6-year-olds is not compulsory, but 99% of children follow it regularly.
In certain conditions, pupils can:
- start primary school at age 5 instead of 6;
- stay in the third pre-primary class until age 6 instead of 5;
- spend eight years, and exceptionally nine years, in pre-primary and primary school;
- complete the second step of compulsory education in five years instead of four with one complementary year adapted to the pupil’s individual needs. This year cannot be repeated.
In this system, instead of examinations each year to see if a pupil can graduate to the following class, examinations take place every four or five years. During this period, the pedagogical method and the pupils’ work are harmonised.
The cycles aim to avoid failure at school and to allow all pupils to acquire the basic competences by the end of the four-year period.
The pedagogical continuum does not receive information about the pupil’s performance during the previous year, to avoid ‘labelling’ the pupil.
The pedagogical continuum allows each teacher to know in detail the pedagogical method used with the pupils in the preceding years, from pre-primary to secondary.
The ideal solution would be to implement a process whereby the pedagogical method and the rules and methods of working with the pupils would be the same as the preceding years. Changes, which can be disruptive for a pupil, can be avoided if the teacher talks to the pupil to find out what they have or have not already learnt.
Special education (Decree of 3 March 2004)
In special education, the pre-primary and primary structure is a pedagogical continuum. Primary special education is structured into four degrees of maturity. (The number of years per degree varies according to the level of maturity of the pupils in the school.)
Pre-primary special education welcomes pupils from 2½ to 7 years old, except for deaf learners who can enter school before 30 months. Primary special education welcomes pupils from 6 to 14 years old.
Special education welcomes learners who, on the basis of a multi-disciplinary examination, receive an adapted education based on their needs and pedagogical possibilities. The multi-disciplinary examination is carried out by a psycho-medical-social centre (CPMS in charge of pupil guidance) or other authorised institution and includes medical, psychological and pedagogical examinations and social studies. Enrolment is in agreement with the parents, who receive a statement suggesting a suitable type of school with a level adapted to the pupil. The parents can then decide whether to follow this statement. If the parents decide not to follow the statement, the pupil stays in mainstream education without special support. The statement is essential for entry to a special school. Special schools only give support to mainstream schools regarding inclusion.
Special education is organised based on the pupils’ educational needs and pedagogical capabilities. It aims to guarantee the development of the pupils’ intellectual and psycho-motor functions and emotional and social abilities to ensure:
- integration into a social environment or an adapted work structure;
- professional opportunities despite their disabilities and integration in their everyday environment and working life;
- the pursuit of studies through to the end of upper-secondary level, while offering opportunities for an active life.
The special education authorities organise co-ordination between education and ortho-pedagogical, medical, paramedical, psychological and social interventions. They continually collaborate with the service in charge of pupil guidance.
Special education is organised into eight types. Each type is adapted to the general and particular needs of the pupils who attend the schools, who have the same types of disabilities and therefore share common needs. For pupils with multiple disabilities, special education is defined according to their educational needs and adjusted to their age and capabilities.
- Type 1 is adapted to the needs of learners with mild intellectual disabilities (primary school only).
- Type 2 is adapted to the needs of learners with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities.
- Type 3 is adapted to the needs of learners with severe behavioural and personality problems.
- Type 4 is adapted to the needs of learners with physical impairments.
- Type 5 is adapted to the needs of learners with an illness or who are convalescent (classroom in clinic).
- Type 6 is adapted to the needs of learners with a visual impairment.
- Type 7 is adapted to the needs of learners with an auditory impairment.
- Type 8 is adapted to the needs of learners with an instrumental impairment (primary school only). Within Type 8, specific pedagogies are also set up for learners with:
- severe/multiple disabilities;
- significant loss of autonomy but with a preserved intelligence.
The Decree on books 1 and 2 of the Education Code basic and secondary education, and setting up the common core (3 May 2019) tasks schools to fix the teaching choices and the priority actions supporting integrated pupils. In September 1997, this measure was extended to all pupils with specific needs. It previously applied only to learners of types 4, 6 and 7. It now applies to all types except type 5 learners (hospital patients or convalescents), who remain enrolled in their school of origin.
The decree of 24 July 1997 (Decree relating to the school’s missions, which has been replaced by the Decree on books 1 and 2 of the Education Code basic and secondary education, and setting up the common core) concerns compulsory education in both mainstream and special schools. It defines the main aims of primary and secondary school and organises the structures to achieve them. For present and future teachers and for pupils and their parents, these aims are available to read in all schools, the psycho-medical-social centre (CPMS in charge of pupil guidance) and public libraries. To some extent, the decree of 3 March 2004 organises special education.
More information on the legislation regarding inclusive education in Belgium (French community) is available on the Ministry of Education website under the legislation texts resources section and the section of updated decrees.
Last updated 27/04/2021